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U.S. deaths

In this Saturday, April 18, 2020 file photo, mortician Cordarial O. Holloway, foreground left, funeral director Robert L. Albritten, foreground right, and funeral attendants Eddie Keith, background left, and Ronald Costello place a casket into a hearse in Dawson, Ga. This is the deadliest year in U.S. history, with deaths topping 3 million for the first time. It’s due mainly to the coronavirus pandemic that has killed nearly 320,000 Americans.

Brynn Anderson

WBEZ’s Rundown Of Today’s Top News: The Deadliest Year In U.S. History

Good afternoon! It’s Tuesday, and scientists discovered the “swamp king” and he’s not in Washington, D.C. Here’s what you need to know today.

1. The U.S. is expected to report more than 3 million deaths this year, the most ever

The country is expected to end the year with more than 3.2 million deaths, a new record, reports The Associated Press, citing preliminary figures. That would be about 400,000 more fatalities than the previous record set in 2019.

The increase is mainly due to the pandemic, but other types of deaths were also up. The country saw a surge in pneumonia cases early this year that may have actually been COVID-19 deaths. There has also been an increase in deaths from certain types of heart and circulatory diseases, diabetes and dementia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [AP]

In Illinois, COVID-19 death rates are higher when nursing homes are understaffed. But state regulators have no plans to crack down on them any time soon. [WBEZ]

Meanwhile, the number of COVID-19 deaths and cases continues to drop in Illinois. Officials today announced 116 deaths and 6,239 new cases. [WBEZ]

2. Biden vows more economic relief will come after he’s sworn in

President-elect Joe Biden gave a holiday address today and highlighted the need for Congress to approve more economic relief after it just passed a $900 billion plan.

Biden has called that bill a “down payment” on what he plans after he’s sworn into office in January. But he hasn’t said what exactly will be proposed and how much it will cost.

What we do know is that Biden supports providing relief to states and local governments, who face tax hikes and cuts to schools, law enforcement agencies and other services. And the president-elect also said Congress should extend unemployment benefits and approve more stimulus payments. [Washington Post]

Moderate lawmakers were influential in nailing down an agreement on the $900 billion relief bill, and that could serve as a template for future compromises. [New York Times]

Meanwhile, Biden plans to nominate Miguel Cardona, the head of Connecticut’s public schools, as his secretary of education. [NPR]

3. Lightfoot taps former federal judge for investigation into the Anjanette Young raid

Mayor Lori Lightfoot said today that former federal judge Ann Claire Williams will lead an outside investigation into the wrongful raid on Anjanette Young’s home in 2019, reports the Chicago Tribune.

In a letter to members of the City Council, Lightfoot said Williams and her law firm, Jones Day, will have a “mandate” to look into every relevant city department, including the mayor’s office.

As the Trib reports, Williams is a respected former judge and was the first African American judge to serve on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Her law firm has waived attorney’s fees for the investigation

The news comes as some aldermen have called on the city’s inspector general to launch an investigation. Lightfoot said she supports that move. [Chicago Tribune]

There are several unanswered questions about the raid and why it took the city nearly two years to put the officers involved on desk duty. Here’s an easy-to-read recap of what we know so far. [CNN]

4. Trump reportedly turns on allies as his campaign to subvert the election fails

President Donald Trump has grown angry at several allies, including Vice President Mike Pence, chief of staff Mark Meadows, White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, reports Axios, citing unnamed officials.

The website reports the president has lashed out at anyone he believes does not support his bid to subvert the election and conspiracy theories of widespread voting fraud that courts have rejected. [Axios]

Trump recently met with a group of congressional Republicans and discussed for more than three hours a last-ditch, long-shot attempt to overturn the election results next month in Congress. [Politico]

Meanwhile, Fox News and Newsmax recently backed away from debunked conspiracy theories that companies Dominion and Smartmatic rigged the election with their voting machines.

The move came as legal experts say Dominion and Smartmatic have a strong legal case against the conservative media companies.

“I think they’re in big trouble,” said attorney Ken White. [Law & Order]

5. European Union urges members to lift travel restrictions on Britain

The executive arm of the EU says member nations should rely on testing and quarantines instead of placing travel restrictions on the U.K., where a more contagious strain of the coronavirus has been discovered.

More than 40 governments have enacted travel restrictions on the U.K., and officials in London say lockdown measures may need to be expanded to more areas. [BBC]

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned today that the new strain may already be in the country. [CNBC]

There is currently no evidence suggesting that this new variant is deadlier. Here’s a look at what else we know so far. [BBC]

Meanwhile, Antarctica is no longer the last continent free from the coronavirus. [BBC]

Here’s what else is happening

  • R. Kelly’s federal trial in Chicago is expected to begin in September. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • A decadeslong plan from Peoples Gas to replace 2,000 miles of aging iron pipes under Chicago is running behind and costing billions of dollars more. [Chicago Tribune]
  • Former NBA player Ulysses “Junior” Bridgeman is expected to be the new owner of Black media company Ebony after bidding $14 million in bankruptcy court. [Chicago Tribune]
  • Apple plans to develop a self-driving car by 2024. [Reuters]

Oh, and one more thing …

Got some time off before the end of the year or just looking for something to listen to?

Here’s a look at some of the best podcasts of the year, according to people who’ve worked on podcasts at WBEZ, including Peter Sagal of Wait WaitDon’t Tell Me and Jenn White, who hosted WBEZ’s Making Obama and Making Oprah before joining 1A.

The list is expansive and has something for everyone, from horror fans to people looking for smart takes on daily news. [WBEZ]

Tell me something good ...

What’s your New Year’s resolution for 2021?

Cathy Collins writes:

“Besides the usual loss of weight, be kinder to everyone, my New Year’s resolution for 2021 is to learn SOMETHING new everyday. Maybe it’ll simply be some new feature on my iPhone that I didn’t know about or a new podcast about Thomas Jefferson. Whatever it is, I’m going to try to LEARN and not watch so much Netflix!”

And Paul Lockwood writes:

“My New Year’s resolution is to get vaccinated and — provided everybody else does that — get back to seeing some live stage performances and movies in theaters!”

What’s your New Year’s resolution? Feel free to email at or tweet to @whuntah.

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